Water-powered future

A RECORD number of irrigation projects are now open for water sales in Tasmania with promises of millions of dollars in additional funding to expand existing and new irrigation schemes.

Tasmanian Country can exclusively reveal that water sales will open today for an 11,000 megalitre augmentation of the Greater Meander Irrigation Scheme. It follows this week’s opening of water sales for the 9,200 megalitre Sassafras Wesley Vale Irrigation Scheme Augmentation.

Landowners have also recently been invited to contractually apply for water entitlements as part of the 24,500 megalitre Tamar Irrigation Scheme. “Never before have Water Sales been open for three irrigation projects at the same time,” Tasmanian Irrigation chief executive officer Andrew Kneebone said.

“We currently have more than 560 farmers on more than 160,000 hectares of land across three highly productive agricultural areas able to apply for almost 45,000 megalitres of water. “This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in agriculture as the State and Federal Governments and landowners commit millions of dollars to deliver high-surety irrigation water to enable our state’s farmers to grow, diversify, value-add, employ more people and underpin additional investment in the sector.”

The triple Water Sales offerings come as the Federal Labor Party this week committed an additional $100 million to irrigation projects in Tasmania. The sector hopes the Federal Coalition will also announce further money for irrigation in Tasmania prior to the election. Shadow Federal Agriculture Minister Julie Collins said Labor’s $100 million commitment to Tranche Three would help upsize the Don, Tamar, Sassafras, Northern Midlands and Fingal irrigation schemes.

“This new funding will help turbo-charge jobs and growth opportunities in our state’s agriculture sector,” Ms Collins said. Water-powered future State Primary Industries and Water Minister Jo Palmer encouraged farmers to take up this opportunity.

“This public/private partnership has the potential to deliver game-changing infrastructure for these regions, empowering hundreds of farmers to secure supply contracts, expand production of high-value crops, increase rotations, boost yields, and diversify into new enterprises, such as wine grapes, leafy-green vegetables and berries,” Mrs Palmer said.

The 28,800 megalitre Greater Meander Irrigation Scheme was constructed in 2008 and ongoing additional demand from landowners has prompted the 11,000 megalitre expansion project. The Federal Government has contributed $5 million and landowners are expected to commit more than $15 million as part of Water Sales.

This will enable pump intakes to be upgraded, existing pipelines to be extended, new pipelines to be constructed and the Cheshunt drainage channel to be renewed. This will result in improved water allocation reliability, increased water allocation licences and reduced maintenance costs. Similarly, farmers want more water on the Sassafras Wesley Vale Irrigation Scheme.

This $100 million investment will see the existing scheme increase in capacity from 5,460 ML to 14,660 ML, creating 120 direct and indirect jobs. The Tamar Irrigation Scheme, incorporating 240kms of pipeline and five pump stations to deliver irrigation water to Westwood, Legana, Beaconsfield, Rowella, Hillwood, Pipers River, Lilydale and Pipers Brook, is expected to be completed in 2025/26 and provide an economic benefit to Tasmania of $589 million.

If Water Sales reach the pre-determined threshold on each of the three projects business cases will be submitted to the State and Federal Governments for additional funding and Tasmanian Irrigation will undertake detailed design and will apply for all approvals and permits prior to construction commencing.

Water Sales for each of the projects are open until the following dates: 2pm on June 3 for Tamar; 2pm on June 17 for Sassafras Wesley Vale Augmentation; and 2pm on June 24 for Greater Meander.

Water Sales application forms and further information can be downloaded from tasmanianirrigation.com.au.